A poem and a Pilgrimage in the Holy Land

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His strange impeachment urged. Reply

Came none; they let it go; for why

Argue with man of bitter blood?

But Rolfe he could but grieve within

For countryman in such a mood--

Knowing the cause, the origin.

Wise Derwent, that discourse to end,

Pointed athwart the dale divine:

"What's yonder object--fountain? shrine?

Companions, let us thither go

And make inspection."

In consent

Silent they follow him in calm.

It proved an ancient monument--

Rude stone; but tablets lent a charm:

Three tablets on three sides. In one

The Tender Shepherd mild looked down

Upon the rescued weanling lost,

Snugged now in arms. In emblem crossed

By pastoral crook, Christ's monogram

(Wrought with a medieval grace)

Showed on the square opposed in face.

But chiefly did they feel the claim

Of the main tablet; there a lamb

On passive haunches upright sate

In patience which reproached not fate;

The two fine furry fore-legs drooping

Like tassels; while the shearer, stooping,

Embraced it with one arm; and all

The fleece rolled off in seamless shawl

Flecked here and there with hinted blood.
It did not shrink; no cry did come:

In still life of that stone subdued

Shearer and shorn alike were dumb.
As with a seventy-four, when lull

Lapses upon the storm, the hull

Rights for the instant, while a moan

Of winds succeeds the howl; so here

In poise of heart and altered tone

With Ungar. Respite brief though dear

It proved; for he: "This type's assigned

To One who sharing not man's mind

Partook man's frame; whose mystic birth

Wrecked him upon this reef of earth

Inclement and inhuman. Yet,

Through all the trials that beset,

He leaned on an upholding arm--

Foreknowing, too, reserves of balm.

But how of them whose souls may claim

Some link with Christ beyond the name,

Which share the fate, but never share

Aid or assurance, and nowhere

Look for requital? Such there be;

In by-lanes o'er the world ye see

The Calvary-faces." All averse

Turned Derwent, murmuring, "Forbear.

Such breakers do the heaven asperse!"

But timely he alert espied,

Upon the mountain humbly kneeling,

Those shepherds twain, while morning-tide

Rolled o'er the hills with golden healing.

It was a rock they kneeled upon,

Convenient for their rite avowed--

Kneeled, and their turbaned foreheads bowed--

Bowed over, till they kissed the stone:

Each shaggy sur-coat heedful spread

For rug, such as in mosque is laid.

About the ledge's favored hem

Mild fed their sheep, enringing them;

While, facing as by second-sight,

Toward Mecca they direct the rite.

"Look; and their backs on Bethlehem turned,"

Cried Rolfe. The priest then, who discerned

The drift, replied, "Yes, for they pray

To Allah. Well, and what of that?

Christ listens, standing in heaven's gate--

Benignant listens, nor doth stay

Upon a syllable in creed:

Vowels and consonants indeed!"

And Rolfe: "But here were Margoth now,

Seeing yon shepherds praying so,
His gibe would run from man to man:

'Which is the humble publican?

Or do they but prostrate them there

To flout you Franks with Islam's prayer?' "

"Doubtless: some shallow thing he'd say,

Poor fellow," Derwent then; "but, nay,

Earnest they are; nor yet they'd part

(If pealed the hour) in street or mart,

From like observance."

"If'tis so"

The refugee, "let all avow

As openly faith's loyal heart.

By Christians too was God confessed

How frankly! in those days that come

No more to misnamed Christendom!

Religion then was the good guest,

First served, and last, in every gate:

What mottoes upon wall and plate!

She every human venture shared:

The ship in manifest declared

That not disclaiming heaven she thrust

Her bowsprit into fog and storm:

Some current silver bore the palm

Of Christ, token of saint, or bust;

In line devout the pikemen kneeled--

To battle by the rite were sealed.

Men were not lettered, but had sense

Beyond the mean intelligence

That knows to read, and but to read--

Not think. 'Twas harder to mislead

The people then, whose smattering now

Does but the more their ignorance show--

Nay, them to peril more expose--

Is as the ring in the bull's nose

Whereby a pert boy turns and winds

This monster of a million minds.

Men owned true masters; kings owned God--

Their master; Louis plied the rod

Upon himself. In high estate,
Not puffed up like a democrat

In office, how with Charlemagne?

Look up he did, look up in reign--

Humbly look up, who might look down:

His meekest thing was still his crown:

How meek on him; since, graven there,

Among the Apostles twelvc behold,

Stern Scriptural precepts were enrolled,

High admonitions, meet for kings.

The coronation was a prayer,

Which yet in ceremonial clings.

The church was like a bonfire warm:

All ranks were gathered round the charm."

Derwent, who vainly had essayed

To impede the speaker, or blockade,

Snatched at the bridle here: "Ho, wait;

A word, impetuous laureate!

This bric-a-brac-ish style (outgrown

Almost, where first it gave the tone)

Of lauding the quaint ages old--

But nay, that's satire; I withhold.

Grant your side of the shield part true:

What then? why, turn the other: view

The buckler in reverse. Don't sages

Denominate those times Dark Ages?

Dark Middle Ages, time's midnight!"

"If night, it was no starless one;

Art still admires what then was done:

A strength they showed which is of light.

Not more the Phidian marbles prove

The graces of the Grecian prime

And indicate what men they were,

Than the grand minsters in remove

Do intimate, if not declare

A magnanimity which our time

Would envy, were it great enough

To comprehend. Your counterbuff,

However, holds. Yes, frankly, yes,

Another side there is, admit.
Nor less the very worst of it

Reveals not such a shamelessness

Of evildoer and hypocrite,

And sordid mercenary sin

As these days vaunt and revel in."

"No use, no use," the priest aside;

"Patience! it is the maddest tide;"

And seated him.

And Ungar then:

"What's overtaken ye pale men?

Shrewd are ye, the main chance ye heed:

Has God quite lost his throne indeed

That lukewarm now ye grow? Wilt own,

Council ye take with fossil-stone?

Your sects do nowadays create

Churches as worldly as the state.

And, for your more established forms--

Ah, once in York I viewed through storms

The Minster's majesty of mien--

Towers, peaks, and pinnacles sublime--

Faith's iceberg, stranded on a scene

How alien, and an alien time;

But now"--he checked himself, and stood.
Whence this strange bias of his mood

(Thought they) leaning to things corroded,

By many deemed for aye exploded?

But, truly, knowing not the man,

At fault they in conjecture ran.

But Ungar (as in fitter place

Set down) being sprung from Romish race,

Albeit himself had spared to feed

On any one elected creed

Or rite, though much he might recall

In annals bearing upon all;

And, in this land named of Behest,

A wandering Ishmael from the West;

Inherited the Latin mind,

Which latc blown by the adverse wind
Of harder fortunes that molest--

Kindled from ember into coal.

The priest, as one who keeps him whole,

Anew turns toward the kneeling twain:

"Your error's slight, or, if a stain,

'Twill fade. Our Lord enjoins good deeds

Nor catechiseth in the creeds."

A something in the voice or man,

Or in assumption of the turn

Which prior theme did so adjourn,

Pricked Ungar, and a look he ran

Toward Derwent--an electric light

Chastising in its fierce revolt;

Then settled into that still night

Of cloud which has discharged the bolt.


At breakfast in refectory there

The priest--if Clarel not mistook--

The good priest wore the troubled air

Of honest heart striving to brook

Injury, which from words abstained,

And, hence, not readily arraigned;

Which to requite in its own sort

Is not allowed in heaven's high court,

Or self-respect's. Such would forget,

But for the teasing doubt or fret

Lest unto worldly witness mere

The injury none the less appear

To challenge notice at the least.
Ungar withdrew, leaving the priest

Less ill at ease; who now a thought

Threw out, as 'twere in sad concern

For one whose nature, sour or stern,

Still dealt in all unhandsome flings
At happy times and happy things:

" 'The bramble sayeth it is naught:'

Poor man!" But that; and quite forbore

To vent his grievance. Nor less sore

He felt it--Clarel so inferred,

Recalling here too Mortmain's word

Of cutting censorship. How then?

While most who met him frank averred

That Derwent ranked with best of men,

The Swede and refugee unite

In one repugnance, yea, and slight.

How take, construe their ill-content?

A thing of vein and temperament?

Rolfe liked him; and if Vine said naught,

Yet even Vine seemed not uncheered

By fair address. Then stole the thought

Of how the priest had late appeared

In that one confidential hour,

Ambiguous on Saba's tower.

There he dismissed it, let it fall:

To probe overmuch seems finical.

Nor less (for still the point did tease,

Nor would away and leave at ease),

Nor less, I wonder, if ere long

He'll turn this off, not worth a song,

As lightly as of late he turned

Poor Mortmain's sally when he burned?


Marking the priest not all sedate,

Rolfe, that a friend might fret discard,

Turned his attention to debate

Between two strangers at the board.

In furtherance of his point or plea

One said:

"Late it was told to me,

And by the man himself concerned,

A merchant Frank on Syria's coast,

That in a fire which traveled post,

His books and records being burned,

His Christian debtors held their peace;

The Islam ones disclaimed release,

And came with purses and accounts."

"And duly rendered their amounts?

'Twas very kind. But oh, the greed,

Rapacity, and crime at need

In satraps which oppress the throng."

"True. But with these 'tis, after all,

Wrong-doing purely personal--

Not legislated--not a wrong

Law-sanctioned. No: the Turk, admit,

In scheme of state, the scheme of it,

Upon the civil arm confers

A sway above the scimeter's--

The civil power itself subjects

Unto that Koran which respects

Nor place nor person. Nay, adjourn

The jeer; for now aside we'll turn.

Dismembered Poland and her throe

In Ninety-Five, all unredressed:

Did France, did England then protest?"

"England? I'm sure I do not know.

Come, I distrust your shifting so.

Pray, to what end now is this pressed?"

"Why, here armed Christendom looking on,

In protest the Sultan stood alone."

"Indeed? But all this, seems to me,

Savors of Urquhart's vanity."

"The commentator on the East?"

"The same: that very inexact

Eccentric ideologist

Now obsolete."

"And that's your view?

He stands for God."

"I stand by fact."

"Well then, another fact or two;
When Poland's place in Thirty-One

Was blotted out, the Turk again

Protested, with one other man,

The Pope; these, and but these alone;

And in the protest both avowed

'Twas made for justice's sake and God.--

You smile."

"Oh no: but very clear

The protest prompted was by fear

In Turk and Pope, that time might come

When spoliation should drive home

Upon themselves. Besides, you know

The Polish church was Catholic:

The Czar would wrest it to the Greek:

'Twas that touched Rome. But let it go.--

In pith, what is it you would show?

Are Turks our betters? Very strange

Heaven's favor does not choicely range

Upon these Islam people good:

Bed-rid they are, behindhand all,

While Europe flowers in plenitude

Of wealth and commerce."

"I recall

Nothing in Testament which saith

That worldliness shall not succeed

In that wherein it laboreth.

Howbeit, the Sultan's coming on:

Fine lesson from ye has he won

Of late; apt pupil he indeed:

Ormus, that riches did confer,

Ormus is made a borrower:

Selim, who grandly turbaned sat,

Verges on bankruptcy and--hat.

But this don't touch the rank and file;

At least, as yet. But preach and work:

You'll civilize the barbarous Turk--

Nay, all the East may reconcile:

That done, let Mammon take the wings of even,

And mount and civilize the saints in heaven."
"I laugh--I like a brave caprice!

And, sir "

But here did Rolfe release

His ear, and Derwent too. A stir

In court was heard of man and steed--

Neighings and mountings, din indeed

And Rolfe: "Come, come; our traveler."


They rise, and for a little space

In farewell Agath they detain,

Transferred here to a timelier train

Than theirs. A work-day, passive face

He turns to Derwent's Luck to thee!

No slight he means--'tis far from that

But, schooled by the inhuman sea,

He feels 'tis vain to wave the hat

In God-speed on this mortal strand;

Recalling all the sailing crews

Destined to sleep in ocean sand,

Cheered from the wharf with blithe adieus.

Nor less the heart's farewell they say,

And bless the old man on his way.

Led by a slender monk and young,

With curls that ringed the shaven crown,

Courts now and shrines they trace. That thong

Ascetic which can life chastise

Down to her bleak necessities,

They mark in coarse serge of his gown,

And girdling rope, with cross of wood

For tag at end; and hut-like hood

Superfluous now behind him thrown;

And sandals which expose the skin

Transparent, and the blue vein thin

Meandering there: the feet, the face

Alike in lucid marble grace.
His simple manners self-possessed

Both saint and noble-born suggest;

Yet under quietude they mark

The slumbering of a vivid spark--

Excitable, if brought to test.

A Tuscan, he exchanged the charm

Val d'Arno yields, for this dull calm

Of desert. Was his youth self-given

In frank oblation unto heaven?

Or what inducement might disarm

This Isaac when too young to know?
Hereon they, pacing, musc till, lo,

The temple opens in dusk glades

Of long-drawn double colonnades:

Monoliths two-score and eight.

Rolfe looked about him, pleased in state:

"But this is goodly! Here we rove

As down the deep Dodona grove:

Years, years and years these boles have stood!--

Late by the spring in idle mood

My will I made (if ye recall),

Providing for the Inn of Trees:

But ah, to set out trunks like these

In harbor open unto all

For generations!" So in vein

Rolfe free descanted as through fane

They passed. But noting now the guide

In acquiescence by their side,

He checked himself: "Why prate I here?

This brother--I usurp his sphere."
They came unto a silver star

In pavement set which none do mar

By treading. Here at pause remained

The monk; till, seeing Rolfe refrained,

And all, from words, he said: "The place,

Signori, where that shining grace

Which led the Magi, stood; below,
The Manger is." They comment none

Not voicing everything they know,

In cirque about that silver star

They quietly gaze thereupon.

But, turning now, one glanced afar

Along the columned aisles, and thought

Of Baldwin whom the mailed knights brought

While Godfrey's requiem did ring,

Hither to Bethlehem, and crowned

His temples helmet-worn, with round

Of gold and velvet--crowned him king--

King of Jerusalem, on floor

Of this same nave august, above

The Manger in its low remove

Where lay, a thousand years before,

The Child of awful worshiping,

Destined to prove all slights and scorns

And a God's coronation--thorns.

Not Derwent's was that revery;

Another thing his heart possessed,

The clashing of the East and West,

Odd sense of incongruity;

He felt a secret impulse move

To start a humorous comment slant

Upon the monk, and sly reprove.

But no: I'll curb the Protestant

And modern in me--at least here

For time I'll curb it. Perish truth

If it but act the boor, in sooth,

Requiting courtesy with jeer;

For courteous is our guide, with grace

Of a pure heart.

Some little trace,

May be, of Derwent's passing thought

The Tuscan from his aspect caught;

And turned him: "Pardon! but the crypt:

This way, signori--follow me."

Down by a rock-hewn stair they slipped,

Turning by steps which winding be,
Winning a sparry chamber brave

Unsearched by that prose critic keen,

The daylight. Archimago's cave

Was here? or that more sorcerous scene

The Persian Sibyl kept within

For turbaned musings? Bowing o'er,

Crossing himself, and on the knee,

Straight did the guide that grot adore;

Then, rising, and as one set free:

"The place of the Nativity."

Dim pendent lamps, in cluster small

Were Pleiads of the mystic hall;

Fair lamps of silver, lamps of gold--

Rich gifts devout of monarchs old,

Kings catholic. Rare objects beamed

All round, recalling things but dreamed:

Solomon's talismans garnered up,

His sword, his signet-ring and cup.

In further caverns, part revealed,

What silent shapes like statues kneeled;

What brown monks moved by twinkling shrines

Like Aztecs down in silver mines.

This, this the Stable mean and poor?

Noting their looks, to ward surprise,

The Italian: "'Tis incrusted o'er
With marbles, so that now one's eyes

Meet not the natural wall. This floor "

"But how? within a cave we stand!"

"Yes, caves of old to use were put

For cattle, and with gates were shut.

One meets them still--with arms at hand,

The keepers nigh. Sure it need be

That if in Gihon ye have been,

Or hereabouts, yourselves have seen

The grots in question."

They agree;

And silent in their hearts confess

The strangeness, but the truth no less.
Anew the guide: "Ere now we get

Further herein, indulge me yet;"

But paused awhile: "Though o'er this cave,

Where Christ" (and crossed himself) "had birth,

Constantine's mother reared the Nave

Whose Greek mosaics fade in bloom,

No older church in Christendom;

And generations, with the girth

Of domes and walls, have still enlarged

And built about; yet convents, shrines,

Cloisters and towers, take not for signs,

Entreat ye, of meek faith submerged

Under proud masses. Be it urged

As all began from these small bounds,

So, by all avenues and gates,

All here returns, hereto redounds:

In this one Cave all terminates:

In honor of the Manger sole

Saints, kings, knights, prelates reared the whole."

He warmed. Ah, fervor bought too dear:

The fingers clutching rope and cross;

Life too intense; the cheek austere

Deepening in hollow, waste and loss.

They marked him; and at heart some knew

Inklings they loved not to pursue.

But Rolfe recalled in fleeting gleam

The first Franciscan, richly born--

The youthful one who, night and morn,

In Umbria ranged the hills in dream,

And first devised the girdling cord

In type that rebel senses so

Should led be led like beast abroad

By halter. Tuscan! in the glow

And white light of thy faith's illumings,

In vigils, fervent prayers and trances,

Agonies and self-consumings--

Renewest thou the young Saint Francis?

So inly Rolfe; when, in low tone

Considerate Derwent whispered near:
"'Tis doubtless the poor boy's first year

In Bethlehem; time will abate

This novice-ardor; yes, sedate

He'll grow, adapt him to the sphere."

Close to the Sanctum now they drew,

A semicircular recess;

And there, in marble floor, they view

A silver sun which (friars profess)

Is set in plummet-line exact

Beneath the star in pavement-tract

Above; and raying from this sun

Shoot jasper-spikes, which so point out

Argent inseription roundabout

In Latin text; which thus may run:


The Tuscan bowed him; then with air

Friendly he turned; but something there

In Derwent's look--no matter what--

An open levity 'twas not--

Disturbed him; and in accents clear,

As challenged in his faith sincere:

"I trust tradition! Here He lay

Who shed on Mary's breasts the ray:

SaltJator Mundi!"

Turning now,
He noted, and he bade them see

Where, with a timid piety

A band of rustics bent them low

In worship mute: "Shepherds these are,

And come from pastoral hills not far

Whereon they keep the night-watch wild:

These, like their sires, adore the CHILD,

And in same spot. But, mixed with these,

Mark ye yon poor swart images

In other garb? But late they fled

From overJordan hither; yes,

Escaping so the heinousness

Of one with price upon his head.
But look, and yet seem not to peer,

Lest pain ye give: an eye, an ear,

A hand, is mutilate or gone:

The mangler marked them for his own

But Christ redeems them." Derwent here

His eyes withdrew, but Ungar not

While visibly the red blood shot

Into his thin-skinned scar, and sent

As seemed, a pulse of argument

Confirming so some angry sense

Of evil, and malevolence

In man toward man.

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